Harold P Hill - Escape from Hong Kong

 

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L/Tel Harold P Hill MTB 09 ; 
Click here to return to the Waichow Photo ; 
Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©

Harold Percy Hill MTB 09 of the 2nd MTB Flotilla, Coastal Forces Hong Kong

1905 - 1960

 

L/Tel Harold P Hill P/WRX798 of MTB 09 from Mitcham, Surrey.

 

 

 

 

Acting Leading Telegraphist Harold Hill

 

 

 

Hill arrived at HMS Tamar 3rd December 1940 and joined MTB 09 of the 2nd MTB Flotilla 7th March 1941.

After a short leave upon returning to the UK Harold underwent a refresher course at HMS Mercury 1st July 1942.

1st October 1942 transferred to HMS Tana in Kenya.

Photo from Buddy Hide's collection ©

 

 

 

CPO Harold Hill 1955

 

 

 

Harold was released from full time service in the Royal Navy 8th November 1945  

Harold re-enrolled in Royal Navy Volunteer (Wireless) Reserve as Chief Petty Officer Telegraphist.  in 1947

Chief Petty Officer Harold Hill in 1955

 

 

 

 

MTB 07 under fire 
	Photo from Hong Kong 1941-45 published by Osprey Publishing 
	Illustration by Giuseppe Rava
	Click here for more information

The flotilla took a beating during the battle for Hong Kong.
When the Japanese invaded Hong Kong Island, the 2nd MTB Flotilla was ordered to attack and shoot up everything in sight, and to expend all ammunition in the process. Unbeknown to the flotilla, the Japanese had already established a beach head on the Island west of the Sugar Refinery at North Point.
Guns to the left, guns to the right, guns to the front and cannon from above, on they sped into the fiery jaws of the oriental dragon itself. This was the maritime equivalent of the charge of the light brigade in the Crimea.
Lt Ronnie Ashby whose family motto was "Be Just and Fear Naught" led the flotilla with Jix Prest & Buddy Hide at the controls of MTB 07. Pressing home the attack under withering fire from land, sea, and air, they suffered heavy losses in the process. Only three MTB's survived to limp back and come alongside HMS Robin in Aberdeen. Lt Kennedy on MTB "09" towed the stricken "07", peppered with 97 holes and two dead bodies in the engine room, back to base. The flotilla had lost 40% of its attacking force. The attack was arguably the most daring daylight MTB attack of all time, and was referred to as The Balaclava of the Sea.by Coastal Forces world wide. They were hailed "The bravest of the brave."

Lt Kennedy RNVR: "MTB 11 returned alone from the harbour with her coxswain wounded. There was a long silent pause as we strained our ears to catch the sound of distant engines, but none came. It was a dark day for the flotilla, and for the whole island." [9]

On the 21st December nine planes of the Japanese airforce flew lazily over HMS Cicala.

Lieutenant Commander Gandy R. N. (Rtrd) "The Senior Naval Officer Aberdeen, Commander Montague RN, signaled to evacuate the Cicala ships company and sink her by depth charge; the latter job i delegated to MTB 09 while I took off the crew in MTB 10. This was when my First Lieutenant (Sub-Lt Ralph Goodwin NZRNVR) got wounded by a stray piece of shell." [15]

Lt Kennedy: "Near Aberdeen (East Lamma Channel) the “Cicala” was doing yeoman service with her two six-inch guns bombarding enemy positions, and in consequence came under repeated attack from the air. The value of her work was confirmed the next morning by the determination of the Japanese to silence her. The “Cicala” was steaming slowly near the coast continuing the bombardment when the air attack began. Nine planes circled high above her and one by one peeled off leisurely into a dive. Eight times the water rose up like a curtain round the ship, and eight times it fell to reveal the “Cicala” still sitting there firing at the land. It was agonising to watch, but after the bombs had gone from the last aircraft and the fountains of spray subsided, her guns were silent and smoke was coming from the ship.
MTB 10 rushed out to take off survivors, and although the last stick of bombs had fallen squarely along the centre of the ship almost the whole crew was saved. But the old lady was settling very slowly, and MTB 09 was detailed to sink her with depth-charges in case she should drift ashore into enemy hands. I dropped three charges alongside her, then three more, but each time she reared amidships and settled back on an even keel. The “Cicala” was a fighter, but she was gradually going and after half-an-hour had disappeared.
It was a sad end for a gallant ship which had seen service in North Russia after the last war, and had survived over fifty bombing attacks in this.‘And now there were five!’ Five naval vessels left, all of them MTBs."
[9]

 

HMS Cicala

After 3000 miles travelling overland through China and Burma he arrived in a deserted Rangoon.

Harold returned to Akyab in Burma on the Heinrich Jessen along with the other Telegraphists with Collingwood and Kennedy.

Lt Collingwood stayed behind in Akyab, eventually flying out from Chittagong to Calcutta on the 18th April. From there he went on to Ceylon before returning to the UK.

The remaining nine ratings including Harry in Akyab eventually left Bombay on 14th April and arrived back in the UK 1st June 1942.

Lt Collingwood stayed onboard the Danish ship "Heinrich Jessen" and proceeded to Akyab, eventually flying out from Chittagong to Calcutta on the 18th April. From there he went on to Ceylon before returning to the UK.

The remaining nine ratings in Akyab eventually left Bombay on 14th April and arrived back in the UK 1st June1942.

Lieutenant Commander Gandy R. N. (Rtrd) had prevailed against all the odds, and triumphed over adversity to deliver all his people back to safety without loss of life or serious injury after evading capture and escaping from Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941.

PO Prest: "We travelled by cycles, lorries, junks, and donkeys, but mostly we walked. It was a case of march or die"

Buddy Hide: "On the whole, the moral, spirits, and courage of the party was magnificent. I think it was the shear thoughts of beating the Jap's, and the prospects of getting home after three years, some of us four years from home, that made us carry on."

It is unprecedented in the annuls of the Royal Navy, that a Flotilla evaded capture, escaping overland and crossing an entire continent to fight another day.

Under camouflage in Telegraph Bay on Christmas Day 1941 just hours prior to the escape that evening

 

 

 

 

 

MTB's 07 & 09 under camouflage alongside the stone pier in Telegraph Bay hiding from enemy aircraft just hours before the escape, on Christmas Day 1941. 07 still has a full complement of depth charges on deck.

Photo from Ron Ashby's collection ©

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ships Log MTB 07; 9th Dec 1941
07.00 Proceeded back to base with 09
07.30Secured in Aberdeen base
08.45 Air Raid: Slipped
08.55 Secured on lighter 261, entrance to Aberdeen Channel. [5]

Some of the crew of MTB 09 taking a smoko in Aberdeen Channel 9th December 1941 during the battle for Hong Kong.

From the left Stoker A/B Charlie Foster, Coxswain Bill Schillemore, and A/B Bob Hempenstall

Photo from the Ashby collection ©

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crew of MTB 09 at Waichow on 30th December 1941

MTB 09 Crew at Waichow,

Back Row: A/B Penny, A/B; Leslie [Lofty] Gurd, Tel; Harold.P. Hill, A/B Robert Hempenstall

Middle Row: Stoker A/B Charles Foster, L/S; Coxswain William Schillemore, L/St; P.O. Ronald J.C. (Jez) Priestley,

Front Row: Sub-Lt; Tommy Brewer, Lt; Alexander Kennedy, O/C

Photo from the Hide collection ©


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lt Alex Kennedy on the bridge of 09.

Photo from the Kennedy collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MTB 09 timing the measured mile in East Lamma Channel in 1940 ©

Photo from the Hide collection ©

 

 

 

Click here to return to the Waichow Photo

Research and web publication by Buddy Hide Jnr ©

The contents of this web site led to a considerable number of escapee families contacting me and now each other, and remains the principle source of contact and private information for the spin off projects that have followed. The personal accounts enabled me to record the complete and true account of this remarkable episode of Sino-British war time co-operation. The information compiled here has directly resulted in a museum exhibition in Hong Kong, a re-enactment of the escape in Hong Kong and China, with a movie drama and documentary in the making.

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